Glndale News Press – Agasi Vartanyan climbed up a ladder Friday morning into a glass enclosure with wood framing outside St. Leon Cathedral in Burbank, where he will fast for 55 days to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.
The Glendale resident chose to fast for 55 days because he is 55 years old, and a decade ago, he fasted for 50 days to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, so he’s looking to beat his previous record.
By fasting, he hopes to raise awareness about the genocide and the 1.5 million Armenians who were killed, beginning in 1915, at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
Speaking in Armenian through interpreter Harut Sassounian, Vartanyan said he has been thinking about fasting to commemorate the centennial of the genocide for years.
“I’m ready. I’m very positively inclined to carry this out,” he said.
The enclosure is in clear view of passersby on Glenoaks Boulevard, and they can get a close look at it by walking up to the cathedral.
It was built with help from the organization Crimes Against Humanity Never Again, and Sassounian is its president.
On the nonprofit’s website, www.cahna.org, a live-stream of Vartanyan’s fast is expected to be posted, according to members of the organization.
Just before Vartanyan entered the enclosure, men lifted supplies into it such as clean socks, shirts, underwear, pants, body wipes, towels and disinfectant wipes.
The enclosure also has a television and padded lawn chair, and is dotted with images of purple forget-me-not flowers, a symbol adopted universally this year by members of the Armenian diaspora around the world to commemorate the 100 years since the genocide.
Men also hoisted dozens of gallons of water into the enclosure, and Vartanyan plans to drink one gallon each day. A doctor will monitor his vital signs.
Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, along with fellow clergy, offered a prayer for Vartanyan before he entered the enclosure.
“Our prayers will be with him,” Derderian said. “And I have no doubt that this will send out a clear message to all nations and to all people around the world that what God has given us, the gift of life, we need to honor, and we need to become peacemakers in the life of the world.”
Friends and supporters applauded as Vartanyan climbed the ladder to enter the enclosure around 11 a.m. on Friday.
“I will see you next time, 55 days from now,” he said.